Objective We investigated the performance of North Korean refugees on attention tasks, and the relationship between that performance and psychiatric symptoms. Methods Sustained and divided attention was assessed using the computerized Comprehensive Attention Test in North Korean refugees and in South Koreans. All participants also completed the Beck Depression Inventory, the Beck Anxiety Inventory, the Impact of Event Scale-Revised and the Dissociative Experiences Scale-II (DES-II). Results The North Korean refugees showed slower reaction times (RTs) on the visual sustained attention task compared to the South Koreans after controlling for age and sex. North Korean refugees had a greater number of omission errors (OEs) on the divided attention task and a higher standard deviation (SD) of RT. Total DES-II scores of the North Korean refugees were associated with the number of OEs and the SD of RT on the sustained attention task, and with the number of OEs on the divided attention task. Conclusion North Korean refugees showed poorer performance on computerized attention tasks. In addition, attention deficit among North Korean refugees was associated with their dissociative experiences. Our results suggest that refugees may have attention deficits, which may be related to their psychiatric symptoms, particularly dissociation.
- North Korean refugees